More than one year after the hopes of 13,489 fresh graduates of the University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, to receive their honours were abruptly dashed as a result of the cancellation of the institution’s 51st convocation ceremonies, the institution has announced new dates for the ceremonies.

The cancellation, which followed the directive of the National Universities Commission (NUC) based on an instruction by the minister of education, Adamu Adamu, was announced on March 5, 2020.

The announcement came just 24 hours after the university’s vice-chancellor, flanked by the members of the management and senate of the institution, addressed a press briefing to announce the schedules of activities to mark the ceremonies.

The decision, which attracted public condemnation, was the climax of the frosty relationship between the Ogundipe-led university management and the governing council which was chaired by Wale Babalakin, an alumnus of the university and a lawyer.

But a notice issued on Wednesday by a principal registrar, corporate affairs office at the communication unit of the office of the vice-chancellor. Nonye Oguama, noted that a pre-convocation press briefing to be addressed by the vice-chancellor, Oluwatoyin Ogundipe, would hold on June 30, 2021.

Convocation cancellation

Since 2017 when Mr Ogundipe assumed office as the university’s 12th substantive vice-chancellor, the relationship between his management and the governing council led by Mr Babala has been frosty.

The relationship peaked in May, 2019, when the governing council set up an investigative committee to probe allegations of financial mismanagement, among others, against Mr Ogundipe.

There were queries and counter-queries between the two quarters leading to peaceful protests by workers’ unions on the campus.

The climax was when Mr Babalakin complained to the minister that the scheduled convocation ceremonies did not receive his blessings and urged the minister to halt the process.

But the university management said the same governing council approved the N70 million budget for the ceremonies, and countered the claim that it wasn’t carried along.

The workers’ unions on the campus, and particularly the university’s chapter of the Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) also intervened and argued that the law governing the university puts the matter of convocation under the purview of the university senate, the management and the chancellor.

The union said the pro-chancellor, who is the governing council chairman, has no role to play in matters of convocation.

But in his reaction to Mr Babalakin’s complaint, the minister through the ministry’s permanent secretary, Sonny Echonu, wrote to the NUC, as the regulatory agency, to inform the university of its suspension order.

The university, PREMIUM TIMES learnt, received a memo from the NUC on March 3, less than 24 hours after the VC’s pre-convocation press briefing, confirming the decision of the minister.

Many graduands, parents and well-wishers who had arrived Lagos from far distances including overseas ahead of the ceremonies, were disappointed by the last-minute action, and heaped the blame on the governing council.

Some national dailies including The Guardian, wrote editorials on the development, analysing the possible consequences of the action on the image and branding of the ivory tower.

The crisis eventually consumed the university’s governing council as President Muhammadu Buhari, in November, 2020, announced its dissolution and reinstated the then suspended vice-chancellor.

Varsity sends results to graduands

As a damage control measure, the university opted to send to each of the graduands a soft copy of the statement of results.

The decision, which was endorsed by the university’s senate, was aimed at assuaging the angry graduands and offered them an opportunity to own a document that could help in their career or further academic pursuits.

New date set

Apparently following the constitution of a new governing council, the university has said it is committed to covering the lost grounds.

“The coronavirus pandemic did a huge blow too, but without letting down the guard, we are prepared to reclaim the glory and return the university to the right path to excellence,” Mr Ogundipe said recently.

The university has, therefore, lined up series of activities to mark the aborted 51st ceremony, including exhibition and convocation lectures.

According to the notice by Mrs Oguama, the governor of the central bank of Nigeria, Godwin Emefiele, will on July 5, deliver the convocation lecture.

The event is scheduled to be chaired by the overseer of citadel global community church, Tunde Bakare.

“The congregation for the award of first degrees, diplomas, certificates and prizes to graduating students of the faculties of education, social sciences, arts, environmental sciences and science will take place in the morning and afternoon sessions on Tuesday, July 6,” the notice states in part.

The event is scheduled to end on July 8 with the congregation for the award of PhD, degrees and best PhD award of the school of postgraduate studies and conferment of honorary doctorate degrees, emeritus professorship and distinguished professorship.

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